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Sunday, August 25, 2013
The Pastor's Viewpoint
Our Pope, Francis I, is the first pontiff in recent memory who has broad pastoral experience. Both as a Jesuit and as a bishop, he chose to exercise his leadership as a servant of people, living and ministering in their midst. He has a rather direct and effusive way of speaking. He eschews elaborate attire and protocols. He loves to greet people with a handshake or a hug, and he genuinely wants to know them and the joys and sorrows of their lives.
Pope Francis seems committed to the ancient doctrine of collegiality reaffirmed by Vatican Council II. He believes in shared governance with his brother bishops, seeing their collaboration and wisdom as needed components in his own ministry. He is aware that this vision of exercising authority goes against old European-style absolute or monarchical governing models.
He is concerned to identify with Jesus Christ’s servant leadership. So, gold, jewelry, thrones, crowns, and costumes from medieval monarchs, all of which would emphasize imperial power, he deplores. He intuitively knows the importance of trusting those in the vineyard who daily are listening to people’s stories.
Pope Francis was chosen by his fellow cardinals to be a reformer of Vatican bureaucracies that have tended, in recent years, to want to be served rather than to serve. He wants to listen to all human concerns, not simply those concerned with preserving the past.
I expect him to pay close attention to national bishops’ conferences, women religious, and clergy and laity across many cultures and traditions of believing. Pope Francis desires to be a patient listener to voices of faith from a wide spectrum of experiences.
He is the first Pope from outside Europe in thirteen centuries. He is a Pope formed by a New World and its discoveries, challenges, and futuristic imaginings. He has a natural rapport with people. His homilies are often dialogues with those present. He teaches off peoples’ responses to his questions. He continues to ask people to bless him and his ministry. He is aware that St. Francis of Assisi was charged by God to repair the Church of his day.
This Pope believes the servant-leaders should walk among their people, listening and supporting them. A good shepherd needs to know his sheep. Our new Pope is a captivating man, listening in many ways to God’s Spirit at work in our midst.
Future days will tell the story of his leadership of the Church. Let us prayerfully support him. He is charged with a mission of immense importance, of complex dimensions, and of worldwide influence.